Azerbaijan is not traditionally a country that would attract much attention for its gymnastics, let alone one of Stoi’s limited edition (because we usually run out of time) previews.
They had Valeri Belenky, for a very brief period between mid 1993, when Azerbaijan finally got their shit together with the FIG, and 1994 when he became a German citizen. We’re actually not 100% sure if he ever competed for them, but he was Azeri originally. Other than that, they’ve been low on A listers.
Until December 2013. Then the world changed. They acquired St Pavlova.
Azerbaijan appear to be embarking on a project to poach gymnasts from elsewhere, some of whom are no longer needed by their federations and others whose home teams were perhaps less pleased to see them go. Pavlova and Yulia Inshina, whom they acquired at the same time, fall into category one, but nonetheless the move has not been without criticism. There are those who feel it’s unethical to buy success in this way.
Stoi has no intention of entering the fray on this issue. Instead, we are just giving thanks for seeing our beloved Pavs again. In whatever capacity. We love her so much, we could probably tolerate her competing for a Satan’s Own Invitational VI.
In addition to those two, there are a couple of ex-CIS B listers newly conscripted, so they are now sporting a full team. Presumably the Euros team will be Pavova, Inshina, Smirnova and Bolshova. Since there’s nobody else. We don’t claim to have a particularly great idea how they’ll do, but suspect TFs is an ambition too far. Top 12, though, that might be doable. Intending no disrespect to the rest of the team, that’s just a sideshow anyway. The big question is how Pavs can do.
And her individual prospects actually look reasonably promising. A return to Athens or Beijing form isn’t going to happen, but a few finals could.
Her first and to date only competition for Azerbaijan, the Voronin Cup back in December, yielded a 53.575 AA total with a highest score of 13.7 on beam. While she isn’t competing anything like the difficulty she used to, the quality of movement is still there. Her floor was beautiful, if relatively acro free.
Though not world beating, this beam set was serviceable enough.
Her scores from Voronin would have qualified her to the world and European AA finals in 2013, in 10th and 22nd place respectively, and fifth place in last year’s European beam final. There will be no AA in Sofia, although we expect Anna to scrape into the top 10 in the ‘unofficial’ champion standings.
Vault wise, the most difficulty she has shown is a Yurchenko 1.5 and a Pod, which probably wouldn’t be enough for the top 8, but if she were to upgrade one or both it would be a possibility. We don’t think we need to waste any time discussing her bars.
Obviously one cannot assume scores from one competition will be repeated at another, but set against that is that this competition was out of season and she was presumably not attempting to peak. With this in mind, we will be beyond devastation if our girl makes no EFs.
But she will.